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Monday, 25 November 2013

How Jonathan Will Lose in 2015 By Bayo Olupohunda

With no known accomplishment in public service, President Goodluck Jonathan rode to the Presidency in 2011 on a wave of undefined hope with the assistance of an unsuspecting media, and a gullible electorate. To his supporters, Jonathan was a bolt of lightning that would unite Nigeria, restore prosperity, and bring “a breath of fresh air” to the polluted politics of Abuja, and Nigeria in general. His detractors, on the other hand, saw a recluse with a murky past and little evidence to warrant the adulation heaped on him. Who was right? As his first term drags on painfully, it has become clear that Nigerians who supported and voted for him had invested their hope in a phantom. Under Jonathan’s leadership, the economy has, forget the chest-thumping rhetoric of the finance minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, been a mess and this country has never been more divided. It has now turned out that electing one based on little other than the sentimental rhetoric of a deprived childhood may not have been such a good idea after all. To say that Jonathan was a phenomenon in 2011 will not be an exaggeration. He ran a huge campaign and broke records in vote totals. But it will be impossible for him to match those levels of excitement in 2015.

Usually, in a presidential election, the odds of getting re-elected have always favoured the incumbent. But in a depressed economy like ours, or when the public perceives the incumbent as feckless in spending, dithering or simply not up to the task, this conventional wisdom will not matter. And that is the case with President Jonathan. Several factors, when taken together, make it almost impossible for him to win a re-election in 2015. President Jonathan cannot win. This President has several key flaws which have already blighted his Presidency. His most telling undoing, of course, has been the fact that he has not been much of a party leader with his party now crumbling under his watch. To begin with, the mist has cleared and millions of Nigerians (except for sycophants) have seen with their own eyes that “the breath of fresh air’’ was just more of the same old political rhetoric. In 2015, Jonathan’s campaign will not have the historical significance it did in 2011.

Second, which is the reason for this piece is how the demographics that saw him elected President will work against him in 2015. The President has alienated just too many Nigerians, including large numbers from his own party, the Peoples Democratic Party. In 2015, many will vote against him or simply just stay home–that’s for want of a credible and well-accepted candidate from the opposition. President Jonathan is a self-created myth. There is little substance behind the façade other than the deceptive style of politics that has long defined Nigerian politicians.

In 2011, his campaign avoided specifics; his speeches contained no substance. His greatest asset was his “unknownness.” As a blank slate, Nigerians imagined whatever they wanted in the next president. They were aided by a campaign which played up the sentiments of his deprived childhood. It was a deceptive farce cleverly scripted to mirror the lives of ordinary Nigerians who immediately connected with someone they thought was one of their own. How wrong have they been? He was thought to be an outsider who would clean up Abuja. Any PDP presidential candidate who gained the nomination in 2011 was likely ensured the presidency. Having said that, Jonathan will lose the next election because his greatest asset, his “unknownness”, no longer exists. The imagination of Nigerians can no longer be manipulated in the presence of facts. Simply put, Jonathan will not be re-elected because ordinary Nigerians can now see him for who he is. What people are getting now is nothing like what they were promised or imagined. What was a blank slate upon which to imagine a Jonathan presidency now is a full-blown portrait filled with disappointment and more of the same. Gradually, it is appearing a great mistake was made in 2011. That mistake is now apparent to most Nigerians. Even his South-South home base and party stalwarts in the PDP establishment recognise his failings, although neither is willing to publicly discuss them. It is hoped that the PDP will have the courage to look elsewhere in their next convention. Although that is unthinkable, they can only hope that this election does not destroy what remains of the party. The cracks are already visible. Based on the debacle presently rocking his party, that fear is not unfounded.

The most compelling image of Jonathan is the one showing him ducking all of the tough issues that have come his way. For him, the buck stopped with a plethora of committees and with Okonjo-Iweala. But her Bretton Wood prescriptions have worsened the economy with unemployment figures reaching a record high.

Why and how Jonathan will lose this next election is less difficult to understand than how he won the first time. Certainly, the demographics will be less favourable this time unless something dramatic happens during the polls. In 2011, the President won in almost all the zones of the federation. In 2015, he will not have such a luxury. Take the South-West zone for example. The zone was a battleground which contributed immensely to his first term victory. In 2015, it will present a test case for Jonathan. For one, the influence of his party has waned in the zone. In many of the South-West states, for example, the PDP has become too fractious and weakened. The emergence of the All Progressives Congress, with Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and Bola Tinubu hoping to consolidate on a renewed alliance will make the South-West a no-win for the President. If the alliance between the APC (Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani) work, Jonathan’s second term is best forgotten. If the opposition presents a credible candidate, perhaps, it will be the first time an incumbent will be defeated. The South-West and the North are key battleground zones. The crisis rocking the fractious PDP fuelled by his controversial chairman, Bamanga Tukur, may yet turn out to be his Achilles’ heels.

The politics of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum also offers a glimpse into how Jonathan will not be re-elected. Governor Chibuike Amaechi won 19 out of 35 votes in the NGF chairmanship election, while Governor Jonah Jang got 16 votes with the Yobe State Governor abstaining. Many of the governors who voted for Amaechi have sympathy for the APC. Seven of the nine PDP governors that supported Amaechi are now in the “New PDP” with a chance of defecting to the APC anytime: Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Adamawa, Rivers, Kwara and Niger (also called the G7 governors). Kebbi and Gombe are still in the Jonathan camp of the “Old PDP” but their next move is almost predictable. Note that Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Kebbi and Gombe all voted for Buhari in 2011. The South-East zone, which also has a valid claim to the presidency, will intensify its quest in 2015. It may likely pitch its tent with the party that offers the best chance to actualise this dream. Will Jonathan be a one-term president? It is very likely.

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